Australian law holds both parents responsible for their children. Even when parents separate or divorce, both parents are obligated to take care of their children financially, providing them with all of their basic needs, education and health. A parenting plan is an agreement between the parents of the children, laying out each person’s responsibilities, obligations and commitments.
Division 4 of the Family Law Act, 1975 details what may be included in a parenting plan, but the list is not exhaustive. Generally, a parenting plan should include the division of responsibility for the children, whether or not there are third parties involved, maintenance for the children, how decisions are made, the forms of communication between the parents and between the children and the parents (when they are with the other parent), and ideally, how future disputes will be settled. A primary goal of the plan is to lay out as many of the possible issues involved in parenting in order to allow for future changes and avoid going to court. At all times, the children’s best interests should be kept in mind.
A good parenting plan is very detailed. It lays out an annual schedule of visits, including who picks up and drops off the children. A parenting plan also discusses how big decisions, like where the children will go to school or what religion they will be raised in will be made and by whom. It should also give space for each parent to make certain decisions independently when the children are with them, ie what do they kids eat for breakfast or how much t.v. do they get to watch.
In order for the parenting plan to be legal, it must be: (1) written; (2) made between the parents; (3) signed by both parents; (4) dated and; (5) deals with the issues listed above and in section 63(C)(2) (link to this section). A parenting plan is not legally binding, however, unless it is registered in court.